Latifah takes on a Guinness role — no, not Obi-Wan
Special to The Seattle Times
Once a bittersweet Alec Guinness comedy, "Last Holiday" has now been transformed into a broad and brassy Queen Latifah vehicle. Surprisingly, it's watchable. In its corny, cartoonish way, it even suggests a generosity of spirit that's faithful to the 1950 original.
Both movies are based on a J.B. Priestley script about an unexceptional person who is given just a few weeks to live — and decides to go out in style. In the new version, the timid Guinness character has been rewritten as an irrepressible New Orleans cookware saleswoman who blows all her savings at an expensive European hotel.
Flaunting her wealth, she attracts the attention of a corrupt senator (Giancarlo Esposito), a selfish businessman (Timothy Hutton), his insecure mistress (Alicia Witt) and a master chef (Gerard Depardieu) who is impressed when she orders all the specials on his pricey menu. Soon she's in the kitchen sharing tips on favorite recipes.
She's also in love with a fellow worker (LL Cool J), who is distressed when she quits her job and vanishes. He follows her to Europe, where she becomes astonishingly successful as a gambler and as the life of every party.
Director Wayne Wang ("Smoke") and the screenwriting team of Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman ("Who Framed Roger Rabbit") can't be accused of subtlety or delicacy, but they clearly recognize that with the right star, this thing just might work. And the right star is definitely Queen Latifah, who has never before been given such a foolproof laughter-and-tears package to play with.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org
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